Panthers beat VMI ahead of matchup with Tar Heels


Raj Kahlon prepares for a pass. Wenhao Wu | Staff Photographer

By Joe Rokicki / Staff Writer

One day can make all the difference. For the Pitt men’s soccer team, it just delayed a seemingly inevitable outcome.

The Pitt Panthers (5-3-1, 0-3-0 ACC) defeated the winless Virginia Military Institute Keydets (0-9) 4-0 Wednesday afternoon at Ambrose Urbanic Field. The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday night at 7 p.m., but severe rain postponed the start to Wednesday at noon.

It was the first of a five-game home stand for the Panthers, who opened the game in a 4-3-3 formation in search of raining shots on the winless Keydets. Right away, the Panthers found the step on the offensive edge they had lost in Syracuse, 5-0.

“The biggest thing with ACC teams is that we’re not as confident, and going into this game we were very confident — you could tell from the beginning with how composed we were. I think we just need to take that into consideration,” sophomore midfielder Raj Kahlon said.

Kahlon scored two goals in the game, the first of which came in the 28th minute when Kahlon placed a shot in the upper right corner to beat VMI goaltender Alex Guerra and give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.

Junior Kevin Murray scored on a penalty kick in the 39th minute to put the Panthers up by two. The Panthers matched their first half production in the second half as Kahlon and sophomore Kevin Angulo netted two more shots to increase the Panther lead by four.

Despite the landslide victory, head coach Joe Luxbacher was not completely satisfied with his team’s performance as it heads into the biggest match of the season against No. 2 North Carolina on Friday.

“I think we give up the ball in the midfield needlessly without pressure on us, and the midfield is where games are won or lost basically. We haven’t been consistent [in the midfield],” Luxbacher said.

Kahlon cited a lack of composure for the inconsistency within the midfield.

“If you’re confident and you have composure, you know how much space you have on the ball and how many touches you can take. But when you take extra touches on the ball when you’re frantic, that’s where you lose it,” Kahlon said.

As a team, Pitt outshot VMI 23-5 and recorded eight shots on goal. A stout Panther defense maintained its ground once again, leaking just two shots on goal — both of which senior goalkeeper and team captain Dan Lynd corralled.

Wednesday’s two-save shutout victory was a monumental one for Lynd, who collected his 200th career save and 14th career shutout on the day. Despite his midseason achievements, Lynd still has a more elusive team-related goal he’d rather cross off.

“It feels great. I think I’ll be able to enjoy it more a couple years from now when it’s all said and done,” Lynd said. “I’d much rather get a conference win than 200 saves.”

Lynd will get that chance Friday, as the team once again goes for its first ACC win in its 23rd attempt. The Panthers await the undefeated Tar Heels (8-0-0, 3-0-0 ACC).

Freshman Tobias Marshall-Heyman left the game in the 56th minute after a collision with VMI’s Guerra off a corner kick. Luxbacher said Marshall-Heyman experienced chest pain and a slight headache.

Senior defenseman Stephane Pierre did not play against VMI and will be inactive against UNC on Friday.

“Injuries are unfortunately part of the game. We just have to have the mentality that whoever is in there has to get the job done,” Lynd said. “There’s no excuses — every team is banged up, we just gotta go out there and play.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Ambrose Urbanic Field.

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